Personal Strategy

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Back to Blog Home Happy New Year! Happy New You?!

How to be happier by not making New Year resolutions.

It’s strange, isn’t it?

The sun rises just the same.

The trees wave in the breeze just as they did.

My pet dog Mitch wags his tail no differently and loves his walks just as much.

So why do so many of us place such significance on the passing of December and the arrival of January?

Of course in many places and cultures this transition means no more than it does to the trees. But somehow many have come to see this man-made milestone as a chance to wipe the slate clean.

To start afresh on all those opportunities we’ve failed to take. On the changeswe should have made. Or the challenges we haven’t been able to meet.

Many of us see those potential opportunities realised, changes made and challenges met as a pathway to happiness.

And they can be, up to a point.

But only if we do, or don’t approach things in a particular way:

  1. Don’t make resolutions – make plans. A resolution is really nothing more than a wish or a hope.  Which is why most resolutions fail before the end of January! A detailed plan, on the other hand, which sets out specific and realistic actions and progressive milestones and targets, has a much better chance of delivering the outcome you’re after.
  2. Do understand the obstacles. Anything worth doing is going to be at least a little difficult.  Use your past experience to pinpoint the likely obstacles you’ll face.  Understand them.  Embrace them.  But make sure you’re realistic about them.
  3. Do identify the barrier-breakers. Knowing the obstacles means you can also figure out a specific approach to overcoming each one of them.  Take the time and devote the mental energy to have a strategy for overcoming each obstacle.
  4. Don’t lie to yourself. Keep yourself honest.  Or find someone who can.  Kidding yourself that your goal actually isn’t achievable after all is possibly the most common reason for failure.
  5. Don’t just focus on the What. Focus on the Why and the How as well. We usually know what we want to achieve.  But being very clear about why is crucial.  Understanding all the benefits that will flow can be a great motivator.  And from a practical view, knowing how you’ll get there is no less important.  Setting out a clear pathway to success is essential.
  6. Do write a letter to yourself. Once you’ve done all the thinking and planning above, set it out clearly in a letter to yourself.  But date it in the future – looking back after you’ve achieved your goal.  Tell yourself how good it feels to have succeeded.  In detail. Talk about the obstacles you faced and how you fought to overcome them.  Set out all the steps you took and why they worked.  Then make sure you read this letter regularly – every month or even every week, depending how long you’re planning for your goal to be achieved.
  7. Finally, do be a little happier. Knowing that you’re stronger and more capable than even you may have thought is bound to make you feel more content and happier.


If you’d like some further insights on self-management and achieving your priorities, check out these other recent WhyWhatHow articles: